10 Common features found on hyperlocal news sites

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By Mark S. Luckie Comment

2008 and 2009 saw an explosion in the number of hyperlocal news media around the world. Since then, hyperlocal media has matured and many news sites now offer similar features that both distribute and aggregate news from their respective communities.

 

Community voices

Hyperlocal news sites often capture the thoughts and voices of their community of readers through blog posts and articles written by citizen journalists or local bloggers. The Seattle PostGlobe is one such hyperlocal site incorporating this approach.

 

Story submission page

Nobody knows more about what’s happening in the community than those who live in it. Many hyperlocals tap into this knowledge by requesting news tips on their site using prominent graphics and submission forms.

 

Fix-it callout

In addition to a general call-out for news tips, many sites also ask readers to identify problems in the city or region that need to be fixed. This can range from relatively small issues like potholes and broken parking meters to larger problems like government inefficiencies.

Oakland Local uses the community tool SeeClickFix to map areas in the northern California city that are in need of repair.

 

Community calendar

A great way for a site to present itself as a go-to resource for events in a community is to provide an online calendar. CultureMap Houston provides such a resource in both a traditional calendar format and a detailed list view that is easy to scroll through.

 

Donation page

Start-up hyperlocals have a variety of funding sources, including grants, corporate sponsorships, and more. Many sites also ask their readers for support and, like the Voice of San Diego, have a page specifically dedicated to donation requests.

 

Social media

You can’t tap into the news of a community or region these days without connecting via social media. Twitter and Facebook are the social networks of choice and are used by sites like Bakotopia. There are, however, a slew of other online social networks hyperlocals can tap into.

 

Video

The type of video that appears on hyperlocal sites varies wildly from reporter-shot video to footage submitted by readers. Mission Local, a project of the University of California, Berkeley Journalism School, features video shot by student reporters.

 

Contact page

If the goal of a hyperlocal outfit is to connect with the community, then the community needs to know who they are connecting with. A good “Contact Us” page, like the one from DNAinfo featured below, should include names and photos of staffers and information like email addresses and social media handles.

 

Reader-submitted photos

TBD.com, a site with a reach too expansive to really be called “hyperlocal,” nevertheless excels at call-outs aimed at residents of the Washington, D.C. metro area which are then turned into reader-generated photo galleries. Recent galleries include photos of reader’s winter-time footwear and Halloween costumes, to more topical subjects like photos from the recent Glenn Beck rally on the National Mall, .

 

Aggregation

Many hyperlocal newsrooms have relatively small staffs but can compensate for it by aggregating stories from other media institutions or social media sources. Aggregation can also pull in a diversity of voices into a single site. The Texas Tribune, for example, features TribWire which includes stories from other news media like Houston Chronicle, New York Times, and Dallas Morning News.

There are a lot of features found on hyperlocal sites, but what works and what doesn’t? That question and many more are answered in this study on community news networks published by J-Lab.

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